When you decided to begin your post-secondary education, you probably focused most of your attention on finding funding and earning scholarships and other awards to help offset your education costs. So, you may not have considered financing and budgeting yet. But don’t worry — Laurentian University has the top tips to help you break down your finances and develop a plan you can use to escape your degree with as little debt as possible.
Good financial planning will help you avoid a financial crisis during your studies. Don’t wait until you’ve already moved away from home and are paying for rent, tuition, food, and more to start thinking about your finances. So, here’s what you can do to prepare:
Setting goals with your money not only helps you stay focused, but it also gives you a sense of optimism and security. By setting goals, you’re more likely to succeed in controlling your spending. Make sure you have your goals written down and kept somewhere you’ll see them often to remind yourself of your ambition.
Not sure what kind of financial goals you should think about? Check out these examples:
- I’ll make my coffee at home instead of buying it
- I’ll only buy take-out once a week
- I’ll not incur more than x amount of debt per month
- I’ll save x amount of dollars during the summer months to contribute to paying off my student debt
- I’ll contribute x amount of dollars towards paying my tuition each month
Create a realistic budget
Using a budget is a simple way to see where your money is coming in from and what it’s being used towards. Here’s a quick tutorial on how you can create a budget for yourself:
Step one: List all your monthly income
Make a list of all the income that you plan to receive during each month. This could include money from employment, your savings, a Registered Education Savings Plan, government income, OSAP, bursaries, scholarships, contributions from your family, and anything else that provides income.
Step two: List all your monthly expenses
Make a list of all your expenses in order of priority — what needs to be paid off first. This’ll help you manage your spending. Some examples of expenses you should consider are:
- Tuition/incidental fees: know the cost of your tuition and incidental fees as well as their due dates.
- Books and supplies: remember that most of your classes will require certain textbooks and materials. However, purchasing used books are always more cost efficient.
- Computer/laptop: will you need a laptop for your studies? There are many computer labs on campus as well as a laptop rental service at the library if you want to save costs.
- Rent/residence: consider how much your rent is and if it’ll change. If you’re living in residence, be aware of your payment due date. You may want to consider sharing your rental expense with roommates.
- Utilities: this expense often includes hydro, gas and electricity, tenant insurance, cell phone bills, internet, and cable. Luckily, these expenses can be managed to decrease their monthly amounts.
- Food/meal plan: create a monthly budget for groceries so that you don’t overspend. Making lists of what you need will help you avoid going over your budget. If you have a meal plan, know when the payment is due.
- Transportation: if you’re a full-time student, your student card also works as a bus pass (U-Pass) for Sudbury transit.
- Entertainment: budget in a small amount of money to allow yourself to go out and enjoy some entertainment each month.
- Medical/dental: if you’re a full-time student, you should have healthcare benefits through your student association.
- Clothing: set a budget for new clothing during your study period. If you’re trying to reduce this cost, there are many used clothing stores that offer great prices for lightly used clothes.
It’s helpful to list your expenses in order of priority to ensure that the most important bills are paid first. Once your budget is all set, review it each week to make sure you’re staying on track. The goal is to keep your income higher than your expenses. You don’t want your monthly cash flow to be in the negative! Check out this student budget worksheet to get started!
Prevent a financial crisis
Since this’ll most likely be the first time you’ve been on your own, the items you’ll need to start your student life may be more than usual. You’ll need things like cleaning supplies, furniture, cookware, dishes, and more. To save some of these costs, you could add these items to your holiday, birthday, or graduation wish list. But, if you’re ever in a financial emergency and don’t have the funds you need, you may need to reach out to family or friends to lend you some money. Don’t wait until the situation is out of control to seek help from your loved ones.
How can I prevent a financial crisis?
Don’t let your finances get too low. Here’s how you can ensure you’re doing everything you can:
- Don’t spend all your summer earnings. Keep some of your summer income for an emergency fund.
- Avoid carrying debt.
- Read your credit card agreements carefully and be aware of the interest charges.
- Track your monthly income and expenses through a budget.
- Don’t charge anything to your credit card if you can’t pay it back immediately.
- Always keep track of your wallet. You don’t want to become a victim of fraud or theft.
- Don’t share your debit or credit card PIN with anyone.
- Apply for any bursaries or scholarships throughout the year.
What are some solutions if you experience a financial crisis?
Don’t panic — you have resources that can help you.
- Get in touch with your financial aid office ASAP to see what advice and assistance they can offer.
- Verify with your student association as well as any clubs that you might be a member of to see if they have any resources available to you.
Make the most out of your money
If you follow this advice, then you’ll most likely have some spending money left over. Here’s how you can make sure you’re saving enough throughout your studies:
- Discounts: many companies offer student discounts. Always carry your student card on you and see if the vendors or restaurants offer discounts. Some stores will offer student discounts on certain days of the week.
- Travelling: use your bus pass! You have access to free transportation all around Sudbury with your student card.
- Extracurriculars: the university has a fitness centre and various fitness programs. We have intramural leagues, a swimming pool, and clubs and groups that don’t cost any money.
- Cooking: if you have a meal plan, make sure you’re using your dollars wisely, so you don’t run out of funds. Cooking your own meals could also save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
- Textbooks: used books are much more affordable than buying new. If you have friends in the same program, you could ask to borrow their books during the course. Once you complete your course, you could sell your used book to other students online.
See — finances aren’t too scary as long as you know how to manage them. With these tips, you’ll establish a solid foundation of knowledge and set yourself up for success. If you have any financial aid inquiries, contact our new Financial Aid hotline at 1-866-387-3879 for information on OSAP, provincial/federal loans, awards, and alternate funding options.
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